Aston Villa, Emery holds deadly new partnership in Watkins & Diaby

3 minute read

Unai Emery now possesses deadly new partnership in Ollie Watkins and Moussa Diaby for Aston Villa

Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins will be looking to reach new heights all-round next season, and Unai Emery has certainly aided that quest through the addition of Moussa Diaby.

It was indeed an excellent campaign for Watkins, especially under the guidance of Unai Emery who played a part in his stunning purple patch that saw him score 11 goals from 12 Premier League games from January to mid-April drawing praise from Jamie Carragher who dubbed him “unstoppable” as a result.

And it was the unconventional tactical shifts from the Spaniard that led to his stunning form with Unai Emery urging his star man to play more centrally since his arrival at Villa Park.

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However, the Villa Park fan favourite went off the boil afterwards, scoring just once in seven games to close out the campaign, while his English counterparts Harry Kane and Callum Wilson were scoring goals for fun.

More crucially, though, his drop in form will have given Emery some cause for concern and plenty to think about as Aston Villa plan ahead for next season, with European football also to contend with.

There’s a case to argue that Watkins’ form may have tailed off as a result of a lack of competition for his position, with the 27-year-old potentially becoming a little too comfortable in his guaranteed starting role.

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Alternatively, the former Brentford man was not helped by the lack of quality in the attack around him with the likes of Emi Buendia, and Leon Bailey not maintaining the same consistent levels as Jacob Ramsey, and Bertrand Traore only just returning from a loan spell to play a bit-part role.

It’s clear Watkins needs more help in attack, a player or two who can maintain consistent performance levels and contributions throughout the season and if Emery can attract such elite names like he has done in Youri Tielemans and Pau Torres, then Aston Villa and their star striker Watkins could well be on the way to hitting huge heights next season.

According to the Opta-powered stats on FBREF, Watkins is in the 96th percentile of European strikers for the percentage of his shots that were on target last season (53.6%), while he also sat in the top 15% of forwards for expected goals per shot taken (0.18 per 90).

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The England international has been hitting the right notes, staying in position to score and shooting on target.

Often the former Brentford man has been criticised for doing too much of the dirty work and not getting in the right positions to score, with his average shot distance at 13.70 yards in the 2020/21 season, 13.60 in 2021/22. However, this significantly improved last term at a far lower average of 12.60 yards from goal.

Watkins stepped up his goalscoring output to 15 goals last season in the Premier League, and it feels like he has the potential to break the 20-goal barrier with the right sources of creativity around him.

And the Villans have potentially found the perfect solution to aid Watkins’ quest to reach new levels, but also hopefully allow Aston Villa the opportunity to possess one of the Premier League’s most frightening and “unstoppable” partnerships.

New attacking signing Moussa Diaby is just the tonic Aston Villa need to step things up a notch both at domestic level and on the European stage.

Last term, the 24-year-old was in inspired form for Bayer Leverkusen, emerging as one of the best in his position in the league, registering 14 goals and 11 assists from 48 appearances across all competitions, and Diaby is also a master of putting opportunities on a plate for his team-mates and successfully performed 143 shot-creating actions in 2022/23, as per FBRef.

The Frenchman is one of Europe’s most productive attacking young commodities, and it is easy to see why Aston Villa pushed hard for his signature, and it already means the Premier League’s elite clubs should be looking over their shoulder with real concern right now.

The former Leverkusen man is a terrifying outlet off the ball, capable of masterminding some devastating runs in behind defences which allow strikers the space and freedom to operate when defenders have their attentions on Diaby.

That’s the kind of help Watkins needs next season and Diaby is the perfect foil, not only capable of scoring and creating but sacrificing himself so that his main target men can thrive alongside him. Not sure Emery even knows the kind of attacking potential he’s cooked up in West Midlands right now.

In other Aston Villa news, Ty Bracey has shared a big prediction ahead of next season.